Personality Structure and Its Implications for Psychotherapy

Dr. Nancy McWilliams, psychologist

All interventions begin with a proper assessment of the patient’s personality structure. Learn just how to do that with Dr. McWilliams.

Excerpt: individual patterns & defensive organization

October discount

Get the presentation sheet

  • 6h of continuing education
  • 37 lessons that last from 5 to 15 minutes each
  • 1 certificate of achievement
  • 1 power-point
  • 1 bibliography
  • 1 course evaluation
  • 4 months unlimited access
  • 7-day money back guarantee


Many of us chose a career in psychotherapy because we were fascinated with individual differences. Research findings support this focus: personality and relationship variables consistently show a greater influence on outcome than type of treatment. This workshop will conceptualize personality differences as they are presented in the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, second edition (2017).

Dr. McWilliams will describe personality dimensionally, contextually, and inferentially, with attention to subjective experience, repetitive themes, defensive patterns, central conflicts, self-esteem maintenance, and relational patterns rather than observable “traits.” Throughout the day, the focus will be on the practical value of understanding clients’ personalities in depth, whether or not the personality is “disordered”. This focus facilitates adaptation to clients’ individual styles of learning and changing as they address the problems that constitute the central focus of treatment.

Although some background in basic psychoanalytic ideas may be helpful, neither an in-depth familiarity with psychoanalysis nor a commitment to psychodynamic approaches is necessary to benefit from this training. The workshop is oriented toward an inclusive, diverse population of therapists of all theoretical orientations who struggle with short or long-term issues rooted in personality in a range of settings. Emphasis will be on the practical applications of the concepts.

About the expert

Picture of Nancy McWilliams  [en]

Dr. Nancy McWilliams teaches at the Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology of Rutgers University, and practices in Flemington, New Jersey. She is author of Psychoanalytic Diagnosis (1994, rev. ed. 2011), Psychoanalytic Case Formulation (1999), Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (2004), and an upcoming book on overall wellness. Her books are available in 20 language. Dr. McWilliams lectures widely both nationally and internationally. She is associate editor of the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, 2nd ed. (2017), a former president of Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the APA as well as an Honorary Member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She has been featured in three APA videos of master clinicians, the most recent being “Three Approaches to Psychotherapy.”

Learning objectives

  • To explicate the differences between, and the respective clinical implications of, categorical and dimensional approaches to describing individual differences.
  • To enumerate ten evidence-based angles of vision through which personality can be conceptualized.
  • To use clinically relevant ways to frame personality organization and disorder, both typologically and in terms of relative degree of mental health.
  • To apply the contributions of research on affect and attachment to the understanding and treatment of psychological problems rooted in personality and and to use the Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual, second edition, as a clinical resource

Learning material

The training includes theoretical content as well as clinical examples. This course includes videos that each last 5 to 15 minutes. A power-point is available for download.


  • Powerpoint
  • Introduction

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. DSM & PDM
  • 3. Temperament
  • 4. Attachment style
  • 5. Individual patterns & defensive organization
  • 6. Implicit cognitions
  • 7. Affective patterns
  • 8. Drive
  • 9. Individualistic vs Communal orientation
  • 10. Internalized object relations
  • 11. Organizing developmental issue
  • 12. Conception of the new PDM-2
  • 13. Structure of the new PDM-2
  • Borderline and psychotic structures

  • 14. Main phase theories pt.1
  • 15. Main phase theories pt.2
  • 16. Origins of the borderline concept pt.1
  • 17. Origins of the borderline concept pt.2
  • 18. Origins of the borderline concept pt.3
  • 19. Work with borderline patients
  • 20. Thoughts on the DSM model for personality
  • 21. Thoughts on brain plasticity
  • 22. Thoughts on antisocial vs psychotic in the DSM
  • 23. How to work with psychotic patients
  • 24. Psychotic range - classic and newer ressources
  • 25. Question - should use normalization with non psychotic patients
  • 26. Question - how to deal with delusion
  • 27. Question - how to use normalization without reinforcing patients
  • Depressed and masochistic personnalities

  • 28. Introduction (en)
  • 29. Depression vs normal loss
  • 30. Affect, cognitions and defenses
  • 31. Transferance and counter transferance
  • 32. Masochistic patients - subtypes
  • 33. Treatment implications for self-defeating patients
  • 34. Question - how to avoid hiding suggestion behind interpretation
  • 35. Question - how to deal with the intense counter transferance caused by patients who live in much violence
  • Schizoid personnalities

  • 36. Characteristics, affects, defenses, cognitions
  • 37. Transferance, counter transferance and treatment implications
  • Bibliography

100% online course

All the material is available anytime anywhere.

Certified course

Completion of the course evaluation allows you to download a certificate of achievement.


This training is intended for all professionnals working in mental health


October discount

  • 6h of continuing education
  • 37 lessons that last from 5 to 15 minutes each
  • 1 certificate of achievement
  • 1 power-point
  • 1 bibliography
  • 1 course evaluation
  • 4 months unlimited access
  • 7-day money back guarantee

Legal notes

ASADIS is approved by the Canadian Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists. ASADIS maintains responsibility for the program.

The CPA’s approval of an individual, group, or organization as a CE Sponsor or Provider is restricted to the activities described in the approved application or annual report form. The CPA’s approval does not extend to any other CE activity the Sponsor or Provider might offer. In granting its approval, the CPA assumes no legal or financial obligations to Sponsors, Providers, or to those individuals who might participate in a Sponsor or Provider’s CE activities or programs. Further, responsibility for the content, provision, and delivery of any CE activity approved by the CPA remains that of the CE Sponsor or Provider. The CPA disclaims all legal liability associated with the content, provision, and delivery of the approved CE activity.

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